Some Spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home ahead!
Well, that was a surprise.
Today would have been a completely unremarkable, even boring day in the world of entertainment industry news – there weren’t any big, flashy headlines to wake up to, no unexpected trailers dropping or big casting news. The world was mostly just chatting amiably about Amy Adams’ birthday, and getting ready for D23. Then, this happened.
As of today, the Sony/Disney deal over the Spider-Man rights has officially collapsed, leaving chaos, heartbreak and a collective sense of shock in its wake. Most of the internet is hurriedly rushing out hashtags like #BoycottSony or #GiveBackSpiderMan, while the rest are cheering about what this means for a shared Spider-verse over at Sony. I’ll try to sort out the details and let you draw your own conclusions, but I want to point out upfront that I am one of the fans who is currently very upset about this news. Not to the point where I want to boycott Sony, as I think that’s pretty ridiculous, but definitely angry enough to…well, write this post, for one thing.
The first thing that needs to be understood is that Spider-Man is the subject of the trickiest rights situation in Hollywood: or, was. Sony exclusively held the rights to the character, and the entire Spider-verse (a.k.a. Spidey’s entire roster of supporting characters, rogues, etc), from 1999 to 2015. During that time they produced two separate Spider-Man franchises, one starring Tobey Maguire, followed by a reboot with Andrew Garfield in the Webslinger’s iconic costume. After the reboot flopped, and the Spider-verse looked to be in danger of breaking apart, Sony’s president Amy Pascal came to an arrangement with Disney and Marvel Studios that the three companies would be able to have joint ownership of the character – with Sony reserving most of the rights. Spider-Man was never sold to the MCU, so much as he was leased. Sony still financed, produced and distributed his films, while Marvel only got a small portion of all Spider-Man box-office returns. The only control that Marvel ever really had over the character was the ability to use him as they saw fit in a total of five Sony-approved films, to recast him, and to choose directors and creative teams for his franchise. For more information on the specifics of the deal, I’ll direct you here.
Meanwhile, Sony used the remaining scraps of the Spider-verse to start creating their own separate franchises, completely disassociated with the MCU – Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Venom, two of last year’s most unexpected successes, seem to have proved to Sony that a three-way partnership with Disney and Marvel was no longer necessary – or profitable. Besides, they’re clearly itching to introduce Spider-Man to their roster of other characters, and they can’t do that until they have full control over the character once more.
So they did the only logical thing they could do. Mere days after Spider-Man: Far From Home, a Sony/Marvel production, officially became the highest-grossing Sony film of all time, Sony chose to pull out of their deal with Disney and Marvel – thereby immediately removing the character from the MCU, shutting the door on future Marvel storylines involving the character, and preventing Marvel president Kevin Feige from having any creative control over Spider-Man’s future films. This, of course, was always a risk, and it looks like Sony might have been scared by Feige’s supposed willingness to bring even more Spider-verse characters into the Marvel fold – perhaps that possible Gwen Stacy cameo in Avengers: Endgame was the last straw, who knows?
Whatever was the reason for Sony’s abrupt decision, it looks like, once they made up their minds, they didn’t back down. Disney apparently reached out to the studio, on Marvel’s behalf, with an offer to set up a 50/50 co-financing deal for all future Spider-Man movies – Sony turned it down immediately, and offered to keep the current deal going; the deal under which Marvel receives a measly share of profits. Disney rejected that offer. At which point Sony just cut their losses and took Spider-Man back. Both sides are just trying to look out for their business, and that’s completely understandable. Disney (and especially Marvel) don’t want to lose one of the cornerstones of their biggest franchise, and Sony doesn’t want to keep sharing their biggest franchise anymore, in a deal that has effectively prevented them from fully building their own Spider-verse.
The main problem is that this leaves Kevin Feige and the MCU in a horrible position. Having just set up a huge, world-changing story arc in Far From Home that was clearly intended to set up future Spider-Man movies and pave the way for Peter Parker becoming Marvel’s new Iron Man, Feige will now have to slowly dismantle all that hard work. If Sony and Disney don’t renegotiate (and it doesn’t seem likely that they will, at least not yet), then Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man is officially gone from the MCU, leaving a gaping hole in the universe’s carefully constructed structure. Mysterio, one of the most awesome villains in recent comic book movie history, is gone as well. MJ, Aunt May, Ned: all of them are gone. J. Jonah Jameson, who just got introduced to the MCU, is out of it again. Sony will take back all their characters and probably recast and rebrand them all, giving Peter Parker a new origin story in a new trilogy of films that will most likely not expand on anything you’ve seen in Peter’s brief MCU tenure.
And so I feel obligated to conclude this post with what will most likely turn out to be the last line of dialogue ever spoken by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in the MCU:
“What the fu-”
*cut to black*